JLF Research Archive
Showing items 426 to 450 of 526
A House-Senate compromise budget for the 2003-05 biennium will cost North Carolina taxpayers another half-billion dollars a year and do little to stem the government’s long-term growth. General Fund spending will actually rise 3 percent in FY 2003-04 and 5 percent in FY 2004-05, with most of the increase over the next two fiscal years concentrated in health and human services, debt service, the UNC system, and subsidies to nonprofits. North Carolina deserves better.
The North Carolina Justice and Community Development Center released a report in May that purported to demonstrate that 60 percent of North Carolina families with children were not receiving enough income to meet a “living-income” standard. This startling statistic was the result of gross exaggerations of cost and undercounts of income, including no accounting for child support payments. Moreover, the Center’s proposed solutions would increase poverty.
State lawmakers are considering a proposed constitutional amendment to allow local governments to issue bonds without a public vote to construct convention centers, sports arenas, and other “economic development” projects. Careful research of these programs in other states reveals that they do not enhance a community’s economic growth over time. Moreover, they weaken governmental accountability to a voting public that does not favor subsidizing private businesses.
Defenders of North Carolina’s fiscal policies over the past two years argue that the state’s massive increases in sales, income, business, and other taxes were just part of a national trend. But the available data put North Carolina near the top in tax increases over the past two years, with more than $1 billion in annual fiscal impact. The state’s quick recourse to higher taxes may be one reason why its economy has been trailing the rest of the region and nation since mid-2001.
The North Carolina Senate is considering a budget plan for the 2003-05 biennium that would compound the House’s error in raising taxes in the midst of a slack economic recovery. While proponents of the plan claim that it would help families with children, the reality is that it would impose higher taxes on family purchases of such items as clothes, furniture, candy, soft drinks, and health insurance — in order to fund a $726 million increase in state spending, or 5.1 percent.
Political observers may welcome the North Carolina House’s uncharacteristic speed in devising its 2003-05 budget plan by its previously announced deadline of Easter weekend, but state taxpayers are unlikely to view its nearly $860 million in extra taxes over the next two fiscal years as timely given the weakness of the state’s economic recovery. By working harder to identify budget savings, lawmakers could have avoided the tax increase without adversely affecting teachers, prisons, or other core services of state government.
The North Carolina General Assembly faces a critical choice about the state’s fiscal direction: whether to extend nearly $500 million in tax increases that politicians had previously promised were “temporary,” or to find additional savings to balance the FY 2003-04 budget. Since the taxes were originally imposed in 2001, North Carolina’s business growth has fallen short of the Southastern average and its tax rates remain among the highest in the region and the nation. And according to the Tax Foundation, North Carolina's state/local tax burden has risen to 25th in the nation in 2003, up from 36th in 1998.
North Carolina faces significant fiscal and economic challenges over the next two years. But it need not resort to higher taxes, a state-run lottery, higher debt, or gimmickry to balance its budget. Nor does North Carolina need to skimp on crucial needs such as education and highways. By setting firm priorities within state government, eliminating unnecessary or duplicative programs, and charging users of some services a reasonable price, state leaders can generate sufficient savings to invest in the future needs of the state.
North Carolina has now joined many other states and the federal government in debating solutions to the problem of rising costs in medical malpractice insurance. Evidence suggests that flaws in our tort laws and procedures are a major part of the problem. Proposed state legislation to cap “pain and suffering” awards and implement other reforms represents a good starting point, but state lawmakers should also look at a “loser pays” rule and judicial oversight of expert testimony to reduce the impact of junk science and quack medicine on jury deliberations.
Ground-level ozone, often referred to as smog, is front and center on the policy agenda of environmental groups and legislators at all levels of government. Over the past several years, high-profile studies published by the American Lung Association, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and the Clean Air Network (a consortium of environmental advocacy groups) have claimed that ozone is having a severe impact on public health, both nationwide and in North Carolina. These reports have gotten a great deal of media attention but very little media scrutiny.
Gov. Mike Easley has proposed an annual cap on the growth of state spending in North Carolina that would be tied to personal income growth. In considering the idea, lawmakers should examine recent data that show state spending caps to be effective particularly if they rebate excess revenues to taxpayers and enjoy constitutional, rather than just statutory, authority. Without a spending cap, it is likely that fiscal discipline will disappear as the state’s economy recovers.
This fifth annual report on schools from the North Carolina Education Alliance shows that many school districts in the state made progress in 2001-02. It also shows that many of the failing school systems from 2000-01 were still performing in the failing range again last year. Official results of statewide testing are reported annually in the Department of Public Instruction’s ABCs of Public Education. End-of-grade tests for elementary students and end-of-course tests for high school students are the only exams administered statewide each year. As such, information about public schools is focused on the results of these exams. Grading Our Schools offers a different lens for studying test results and other performance data. As an additional information tool, we hope it will allow parents and taxpayers to better evaluate student performance in North Carolina’s public schools.
All middle school teachers in North Carolina have to teach physical science, which is required for middle school students in NC public schools. Unfortunately, over 80% have never taken a physical science course and many of those who have, have taken a course that is of no help to their students. Naturally, with their limited backgrounds, they hare heavily dependent on the materials they are given to teach from. In addition, in many instances these materials form the teacher’s own introduction to the subjects. It is especially important, therefore, that the textbooks and other materials that teachers and students are forced to use get it right.
North Carolina lawmakers are once again coming to Raleigh to grapple with a projected deficit exceeding $1 billion. A close examination of fiscal trends demonstrates that excessive spending, not inadequate revenue, is the cause and that the state budget continues to be bloated with wasteful or low-priority expenditures. Policymakers must show courage, be willing to apply fundamental principles, and target major areas of state spending for savings and reform.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a private organization formed in 1987 with the goal of establishing standards for teaching effectiveness and certifying those teachers it identified as especially capable. NBPTS has written standards that purport to show what accomplished teachers “should know and be able to do” and has established a certification procedure that relies on videotapes, portfolios and written essays. There are currently more than 16,000 National Board certified teachers in the United States, more than 20% of them in North Carolina.
By the Numbers 2003: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties is the fourth in a series of studies that examine local taxes, fees, and charges in every North Carolina communities. Charlotte ranks first among major cities in combined local government costs per person, with Hickory, Durham, Wilmington, and Cary rounding up the top tier. Among large urban counties, Durham and Mecklenburg have relatively high costs as a percentage of personal income.
Former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith said that one of the greatest challenges facing local government is how to do more with less. This is certainly true for local governments in North Carolina. In the past two years, they have had to adjust to significantly more stringent budgetary constraints. This was brought on, in large part, by Governor Easley’s decision to withhold state reimbursements to counties and municipalities. Because of this localities are being forced to find innovative ways to balance their budgets.
Summary: During debates about air pollution in North Carolina, supporters of more regulation have asserted that high rates of childhood asthma are related to increasing exposure to ground-level ozone. Not only has there been no such increase, but a new study shows there is, if anything, an inverse correlation — the higher the ozone level, the lower the asthma rate. Next time, lawmakers and the media should check the facts before repeating unfounded and politically motivated allegations.
After months of delay, the state legislature has enacted a revised FY 2002–03 budget that differs little from the plan originally proposed by Gov. Mike Easley in May. Lawmakers adopted nearly all the governor's $543 million raid on local government reimbursements and highway funds, changing only what percentage will be made up with a sales tax increase. Taxpayers are the big losers—entering the second of what promises to be three straight years of huge tax hikes.
North Carolina’s state budget reflects its governmental priorities. Unfortunately, over the past two decades governors and lawmakers have usually chosen to add new programs to the state budget without considering the merits of existing programs and finding ways to fund higher-priority items by eliminating lower priorities. As a result, the budget has grown by leaps and bounds, interrupted only briefly by retrenchment during recessionary periods, including the past three fiscal years. Until state leaders learn to exercise fiscal discipline or to write fiscal discipline into law via a strong expenditure limit the budget problem will worsen.
As House and Senate leaders negotiate a final budget package for FY 2002-03, they should resist the usual temptation to "logroll" — to add in spending items favored by the other side — and instead accept the lower of the two chambers' previously approved figures for every department as well as the higher of the two chambers' previously approved fund transfers. With such "reverse logrolling," lawmakers could balance the state budget without a tax increase.
At this writing, the N.C. House is considering a revised General Fund budget of $14.3 billion, balanced largely by raising state taxes by $166 million, raiding $255 million from highway funds and $156 million from local governments, and achieving net budget savings of $478 million. Unfortunately, the news for taxpayers is likely to be worse next year, given the use of some $666 million in one-time money for expenses likely to recur — setting the stage for another tax increase.
Gov. Easley's new incentives proposal would put political appointees into the position of doling out special tax breaks that amount to grants of taxpayer money to private businesses. Because of the unpredictable nature of a free-market economy, such a policy cannot claim to boost overall economic growth. A better policy would be to reduce North Carolina sky-high marginal tax rates on personal income, investment, and capital gains - which are among the highest in the country.
The N.C. Senate is debating its proposed budget, which would reduce authorized FY 2002-03 spending by $585 million. Most of the $1.4 billion budget gap, however, would be closed with one-time revenues, including tax hikes and fund diversions, that will reportedly create a recurring deficit in FY 2003-04 approaching $800 million. Some leaders propose closing that gap with tax hikes, too, meaning that the total annual tax burden will have grown $1.4 billion from 2001 to 2003.
The state legislature is currently considering the idea of "decoupling" North Carolina's income tax code from the federal tax code in order to avoid implementation of several tax reductions associated with a federal economic-stimulus package. But North Carolina's weakened economy desperately needs the $258 million boost that adjusting state taxes on business and personal investment would provide. Policymakers could offset any revenue loss by reducing spending.